Part 1. Blood Glucose, The Key To Sustained Energy
A subject I often get asked about is nutrition, and more specifically how to improve energy levels, but as a sports therapist, this simply isn't my area. So I asked my nutritionist to write a guest blog to help you get a better understanding with this 3 part blog covering the topic. Over to you Laura...
Feeling tired and low in energy is one of the most common concerns that I see in the clinic. The good news is that there is plenty you can do to sustain your energy levels throughout the day, improving mental and physical performance. Several imbalances might cause low energy but the primary suspect is usually blood-glucose.
Blood-glucose refers to the amount of sugar circulating in the blood, and for sustained energy, it’s really important to keep that amount as level as possible. Symptoms of imbalance include fatigue, headaches, irritability, food cravings, anxiety, low mood and poor sleep.
Before we look at dietary aspects of blood-glucose balance it’s important to get a basic understanding of what’s going on in the body. When you eat a meal, the carbohydrate content is broken down into glucose (the body’s preferred fuel source) and released into the bloodstream, where it causes the pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to knock on the doors of all the cells in the body to tell them that glucose has arrived – glucose enters and is used as energy. Once the glucose from your meals or snack has been used up, the pancreas releases less insulin until your next meal when the process starts again. Ideally, we want to keep the level of glucose in the blood as steady as possible, so that our cells have a steady source of fuel and we feel consistently energised.
Unfortunately, the system often gets knocked off balance and this is where food choices come in. Certain foods (often processed foods) deliver a quick release of glucose into the blood – levels become too high. In response, the pancreas releases a lot more insulin in an attempt to bring the level circulating in the blood down – excess glucose will be stored as fat. This leads to a sharp fall in blood glucose – an energy ‘crash’ or ‘slump’ (this is when you might feel irritable or crave a ‘pick-me-up’ in the form of sugar or caffeine). A hormone called glucagon now enters the scene, making the liver convert stored energy into glucose, which causes levels to sharply rise again – often accompanied by a fresh batch of glucose from a snack you might have reached for to combat your energy slump. This is what we refer to as the ‘blood glucose rollercoaster’ and once you’re on the ride it can be very hard to get off.
Next up are my top nutrition tips to keep your blood glucose, and therefore your energy levels, as steady as possible throughout the day. For personalised support, get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Instagram @laura.nutrition.